Vancouver sports travel guide

Our city guides are meant to showcase the best of a metropolitan area from the perspective of a sports fan visiting to watch a game or two. Here’s our guide to the best of Vancouver sports travel.

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Vancouver, British Columbia is one of the gems of the Pacific Northwest, with stunning scenery and numerous activities that make it a wonderful option for visitors regardless of their reasons for traveling.

Of course, when sports is one of those reasons, Vancouver has plenty of offer. The city is home to three major professional teams, most prominently the NHL’s Canucks. There’s no better evidence of Vancouver’s love of sports than to see the city come alive when the Canucks are doing well — even if that passion has famously been channeled in not-so-productive ways.

The city’s international profile got a major boost with the staging of the 2010 Winter Olympics. Surrounded by water, mountains and abundant parkland, Vancouver is also an outdoor sports paradise, with many avenues for pursuits such as running, cycling, water sports and snow sports.

Add in a robust food and culture scene, as well as the city’s reputation as “Hollywood North” for the many film studios located in the region, and Vancouver has something for just about all tastes — including the sports travel vacationer. 

Here’s a sports fan’s guide to making the most of your trip.

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The landscape: Where to watch sports in Vancouver

What’s convenient for visitors on a sports travel vacation is that Vancouver’s two major sports venues are located right next to each other in a prime spot downtown, adjacent to two popular neighborhoods known as Gastown and Yaletown.

Both BC Place and Rogers Arena also played important roles in the 2010 Winter Olympics, the former as the site of the opening and closing ceremonies, the latter as the hockey venue and the scene of one of Canada’s favorite international hockey moments.

Before the Canucks moved into what was then known as General Motors Place in 1995, they played their home games at Pacific Coliseum, a few miles east of downtown. The arena still stands today and was used as the venue for figure skating and short-track speed skating during the 2010 Games.

The venues
BC Place: Home of Vancouver Whitecaps FC and the BC Lions. Located at 777 Pacific Boulevard in downtown Vancouver.
Rogers Arena: Home of the Canucks. Located at 800 Griffiths Way in downtown Vancouver.

BC Place Vancouver sports travel

BC Place

The strategies: Arriving and getting around Vancouver

Getting in
Vancouver International Airport (YVR) is located south of the city proper and serves as the gateway to Western Canada, with plenty of connections to major cities in Canada and the United States alike. It is also a popular connecting airport for routes to Asia. The two major Canadian carriers, Air Canada and WestJet, have an extensive presence, but the U.S. airlines all offer service from south of the border as well.

American travelers looking to arrive in Vancouver via a different method can take advantage of frequent train and bus service from Washington state. Amtrak’s Cascades line runs trains twice a day between Seattle and Vancouver. The Canadian equivalent of Amtrak, ViaRail, also has service to Canadian points east, running as far as Toronto. The city’s train depot is Pacific Central Station, on the eastern edge of downtown.

Bus options from Seattle include Greyhound and Quick Shuttle; the latter’s service originates at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, allowing travelers to fly into Seattle and take a bus directly from the airport into downtown Vancouver.

The majority of drivers coming from the U.S. do so via Interstate 5 and the busy border crossing in Blaine, Wash., after which the route becomes British Columbia Route 99. From the border, it’s just 53 kilometers — or about 32 miles — to downtown Vancouver.

Where to stay
Vancouver’s downtown offers neighborhoods — and lodging options — for most every budget, ranging from the high-end hotels near the Canada Place convention center to the more quaint offerings in the West End, to the trendy hotels in and around the up-and-coming Yaletown area. There are numerous options within walking distance of Rogers Arena and BC Place.

Vancouver sports travel visitors on a tighter budget can look to the area around Vancouver International Airport and the nearby suburb of Richmond, as well as the city of Burnaby, just to the east of Vancouver proper.

For a list of hotel options in Vancouver, click here.

Getting around
If you’re hoping for a highway route into downtown Vancouver, you won’t find one. The central area is located on a peninsula and, while there are plenty of ways to get in, the closest highway to downtown is the Trans-Canada Highway, aka Highway 1. Travelers driving in via the aforementioned Route 99 will find it becomes a surface road as soon as it crosses into Vancouver city limits and, several miles later, crosses into downtown via the Granville Bridge. 

Granville Street is one of the major thoroughfares in the diagonal downtown street grid. Other streets worth knowing: Georgia Street, which passes by Rogers Arena and BC Place before becoming part of Route 99 a little farther west; Burrard Street, where many major hotels and much of Vancouver’s business center are located; and Robson Street, considered the center of the city’s upscale shopping scene.

Vancouver’s SkyTrain rapid transit service was expanded greatly in anticipation of the 2010 Winter Olympics and currently consists of three lines, known as the Expo, Millenium and Canada lines. The system links the downtown area with Vancouver International Airport (via the Canada line) and also offers service to the suburbs of Richmond, Surrey and Burnaby. Fans traveling to the downtown venues can access them via the Stadium-Chinatown station on the Expo line.

Other public transportation options in the Vancouver area include the SeaBus, a passenger ferry that connects downtown with North Vancouver, and the Aquabus, small boats that take passengers to Granville Island, Yaletown and other points of interest along False Creek, the body of water on the south edge of downtown.

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Traffic and parking in the downtown area are notoriously bad, and game nights at Rogers Arena or BC Place are no exception. As is typical of most downtown venues, fans are encouraged to seek out one of the numerous parking lots and structures in the general vicinity, as each venue operates a limited number of spaces. 

You can find more information on parking at Rogers Arena here, and at BC Place here.

Olympic Torch Vancouver sports travel

Vancouver Olympic Torch

The highlights: Points of interest in Vancouver

Even if your reason for coming to Vancouver is sports travel, the region has so much more to offer. Here are just some of the things to see:

Natural beauty
There’s a reason why Vancouver is often cited as one of the world’s most beautiful cities — just take a look around. Picturesque scenery is just about everywhere, starting downtown with the surrounding water and the nearby Stanley Park (yes, named after the same Lord Stanley who lent his name to the Stanley Cup) providing endless recreational options for residents and visitors alike. Outside the central city, the Capilano Suspension Bridge is one of the region’s most popular tourist attractions (a shuttle is available from downtown to the bridge).

The region is known as a skier and snowboarder’s paradise. Many well-known ski resorts are nearby, including Cypress MountainGrouse Mountain and Mount Seymour near North Vancouver, and the resort town of Whistler, B.C., is about 120 kilometers north.

Visitors can also travel to Vancouver Island, accessible via ferry ride across the Strait of Georgia. BC Ferries operates service from two points in the Vancouver region, Horseshoe Bay (north of the city) and Tsawwassen (south of Vancouver International Airport).

Capilano Suspension Bridge Vancouver sports travel

Capilano Suspension Bridge

Olympic legacy
Vestiges of the 2010 Olympics remain throughout the city. The most visible is the Olympic Cauldron, located alongside the Canada Place convention center on the north edge of downtown. The cauldron is still set aflame on occasion, including during the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup hosted by Canada (the final, won by the U.S., was held at BC Place) and during the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. 

A large Olympic legacy display can be found within the Vancouver Convention Centre, and at Rogers Arena there is a display honoring the Canadian men’s hockey team that won the gold medal in 2010.

The B.C. cuisine scene
Make sure to bring your appetite on your Vancouver sports travel trip. The city’s food is shaped largely by its location along the water — thus, seafood plays a significant role — as well as the influence of the many cultures of the people that inhabit the region. Oysters and salmon are prevalent on many restaurant menus, and Japanese and Chinese restaurant options, in particular, are numerous.

Here are a few spots in which to sample items considered specialties of the area:

Chinatown: The district on the east side of downtown, adjacent to Gastown and not far from Rogers Arena, is full of restaurants devoted to many Asian cultures, not just Chinese.
Granville Island Public Market: Located on Granville Island just across False Creek from downtown, the market — part of a greater complex of shops and attractions — contains a wide variety of vendors selling everything from maple fudge to candied salmon to the Nanaimo Bar. One stand, Lee’s Donuts, is famous for its honey dip.
Japadog: The street cart featuring Asian-inspired hot dogs has a cult following in Vancouver. There are numerous carts throughout the city but a brick-and-mortar stand can be found at 530 Robson Street.
Joe Forte’s Seafood and Chop House (777 Thurlow St.): One of Vancouver’s more popular upscale dining options, it’s one of the best places in the city to sample British Columbia oysters.
Tojo’s Restaurant (1133 W. Broadway): This Japanese eatery in the Granville neighborhood is famous for having invented the California roll, an “inside-out” form of sushi. 

More sports
Vancouver has a minor-league baseball team, the Vancouver Canadians of the short-season Class-A Northwest League. The club, currently an affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays, plays at Nat Bailey Stadium south of downtown. The city also hosts a junior hockey team, the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League. Their home games are at the Langley Events Centre in the suburb of Langley.

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